In Norway today, President Obama picked up his Nobel Peace Prize along with something unexpected: kind words from some of his toughest critics.
"I think having a liberal president who goes to Oslo on behalf of a peace prize and reminds the committee that they would not be free, they wouldn't be able to have a peace prize, without having force. . . I thought in some ways it's a very historic speech," said Republican Newt Gingrich in an interview with Public Radio International.
Gingrich was joined by other conservative voices including Washington Post Columnist Michael Gerson, who said that although he remains critical of the award, the president gave an impressive and important speech.
"I think that Barack Obama has done very little to deserve the award, but I thought it was disarming that he essentially said that much at the beginning of the speech. That was the right way to begin these remarks," Gerson said. "It diffused a difficult issue and allowed him to go on and make a very serious set of remarks about America's role in the world, about a just war, about the role of human rights in the building of a stable peace. These were all very important themes."
Gerson, who has previously charged the prize committee with merely honoring Mr. Obama's overseas star-power, said he was pleased to see the president gear today's speech toward a domestic, rather than a European audience.
"Obama himself plays very well overseas, but I thought it was very smart that he used this speech to give a very American speech," he said. "He justified an important role of America in the world he talked about America's military commitments as being essential to the peace, and I think that is going to play very well in America."
However, Obama's acceptance speech did not mollify all of his critics. Nobel Laureate Jody Williams, who won the peace prize in 1997 for her work with landmines, said it is just too soon.
"I have no problem with a president getting a peace prize for contributing to peace, but just a vision, you know, what really matters is what you do not what you say," she said.